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Big B begins countdown to IIFA 2007

The June IIFA weekend and awards will be held in five Yorkshire towns of York, Hull, Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2006 16:55 IST

Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan began the countdown to the International Indian Film Awards (IIFA) function being held in Yorkshire next year with two launch events at the House of Commons and at Bradford.

This is the second time that the IIFA awards will be held in Britain, since its launch at the Millennium Dome here in 2000. The June IIFA weekend and awards will be held across five Yorkshire towns of Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, York and Hull.

After the launch at the House of Commons, Bachchan travelled to Bradford for the build-up event at the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television.

"If anyone ever asks themselves 'Why Yorkshire?', we should say, 'Why not?'," he told the audience. "End of question, end of argument."

Sabbas Joseph, director of Wizcraft International Entertainment, which created the event, said: "Why Yorkshire? Exciting place, virgin territory, beautiful locality for setting up a film event."

During the IIFA event in June, local organisers are hoping to host a cricket match featuring Indian film stars and Sachin Tendulkar, who has played county cricket for Yorkshire and was a popular figure in the region during his stay here.

Bachchan said he was looking forward to getting to grips with all that Bradford and Yorkshire had to offer. He said: "I was here once, for the Bite the Mango film festival. When I'm here next I will take a good look at the area and the region.

"I saw some films recently by the tourism board and they were absolutely amazing. Yorkshire is impressive; the scenery, the people and the warmth and affection. I am so happy that IIFA decided to hold the event in Yorkshire", he said and added that work on a film with a Yorkshire backdrop was on the cards.

Yorkshire's business leaders are hoping to exploit the opportunities the event will offer. Local businessmen estimate that the event will bring 28,000 film fans who could be expected to spend 9.5 million pounds. During the weekend, there will also be a forum to promote trade.

Yorkshire's bid was branded 'Yorkshire - love at first sight'. The region has a large concentration of Asian origin and is often responsible for substantial box office earnings for new Indian films released in Britain. It is said that more DVDs of Indian films are bought or rented in Yorkshire than anywhere in Britain.

Yorkshire Tourist Board Chairman Judith Donovan said IIFA would be a massive boost for the region.

She said: "Our bid was branded 'Yorkshire - love at first sight' and that's what we intend, not only with the people who come here but those who will see Yorkshire for the first time on television screens worldwide and create a life-long love affair with Yorkshire."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised Yorkshire for winning the right to host the IIFA event. Sending Bachchan and IIFA his best wishes for the event, Blair said: "I am delighted to send my very best wishes to all at the IIFA launch at the House of Commons.

"I am also delighted to hear that UK, and in particular the Yorkshire region, has been chosen to host this important international gathering. It is very fitting that the UK and India are working together to promote Indian film in both countries. I look forward to hearing of the success of the awards in the coming months."

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the event would be a massive boost for the region. She said: "We are terribly proud that Yorkshire has achieved this great honour. This is an impressive achievement for a region that is already thriving."

For the June 2007 event, Rome, Hong Kong and New York were in the race to host it.

First Published: Nov 12, 2006 23:00 IST